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A WEEK IN JAPAN (part 2)

And so, the tale of the Tokyo trip continues.


Cicadas were out in force, and even though it wasn't that hot, somehow gave the illusion of it being sweltering.  Also, Japanese cicadas are surprisingly LOUD.  Must have been registering around 80 decibels at a guess.  o__o

First order of business on Saturday morning was Books Kinokuniya in Shinjuku.  It is 9 stories of books.  Spent most of the time in the artbook and design section, came away with a Kusanagi artbook and now deeply regret not purchasing the Summer Wars book when there.  Did some window shopping in the ritzy department stores too.  Window shopping is a lot more fun when you have displays like this one:


Truly, big cities are a different world.

My travelling companion wandered off to do her own thing unexpectedly at this point, so I headed to Ueno to take a wander around the National Museum, which is impressive in its size and variety of exhibits.  I probably only saw a fifth of it before hunger drove me onward.  Wandered to Yoyogi park next, where I sat with my curry rice to watch the crows cool off in the fountain and buskers perform.  The weather was cloudy for most of the trip, but somehow, in this half hour of sunlight, I managed to get horribly sunburnt.  Yay for moon tans.

Walked from Yoyogi Park to Shibuya station, and ate my second crepe of the trip - strawberries and chocolate this time.  Caught the train to Ikebukuro from there.  Look, Ultraman outside of Sunshine 60!

Enormous hit with the kids.  Wasted some time in an arcade on skilltesters, before deciding to see a movie.  Unfortunately, I bought a movie ticket for the wrong time.  The tragic thing was, I didn't actually flub the Japanese when buying the ticket, I failed at 24 hour time!  Oh, embarrassment.  Finding myself with a good two or three hours to kill before the movie, so headed up to the Sunshine 60 observatory, even though I went there last trip.  Surprise, another Naruto exhibit!  They might as well just make it permanent!

Some different pieces of art from the tenth anniversary one in Odaiba, as well as a couple of Akatsuki statues which I couldn't get a photo of.  Naruto cosplayers are clearly more opportunistic than Gundam ones, as a girl had brought an Akatsuki coat to take photos in front of the backdrop.  It was a very quick and efficient process, appropriately shinobi-like in its execution. 

After dinner in the observatory restaurant and thorough perusal of the exhibit (and hey, the twilight view of Tokyo was pretty nice too), it was finally time for the movie!  The movie in question?  Summer Wars.

This.  And guys, it was fantastic.  Same team who did the Girl Who Leapt Through Time.  Animation was amazing, and it was the perfect balance of hilarious, sad, and dramatic.  THE WORLD IS SAVED WITH HANAFUDA CARDS AND MATHS AND VIRTUAL MARTIAL ARTS!  It's actually a pretty simple movie, but sort of difficult to explain, due to the duality of setting between the new form of internet and a traditional house in the countryside.  I dare not say anything more, lest I spoil its brilliance.  Can't wait until it's localised in... crap, Girl Who Leapt Through Time took forever.  Hopefully this will be speedier.

Exhausted, I dragged myself back to the hotel at midnight after accidentally getting on an express instead of a local train.  (Was staying in Sasazuka)  Fail!


Sunday was Akihabara day!  And can you believe, I left my camera battery on the charger at the hotel!  D:  So you'll have to settle for description.  Beware of the wall of text!

Naturally, shopping was the first order of business!  Messe Girls Games was a delight, but we also found an entire building of awesome - GEE.  Lower floor was entirely gashapon, subsequent levels had trade figures, t-shirts, cosplay, doujinshi - so much!  I spent a lot of money there.  o__o  The top floor was a maid cafe 'Cure Maid', where we ate lunch.  It was actually very relaxing!  Very pleasant, quiet, peaceful atmosphere, with classical piano music playing in the background, good food, and excellent service. 

Being Sunday, there were a heap of maids shilling their cafes out in the street, which makes for quite a spectacle.  There was one from Mai Dream who was particularly aggressive, and after I took the pamphlet shoved into my face, she then followed us, giving us directions, telling us about how wonderful was - and that they even had an english menu!  Of course, we'd just eaten at a rival cafe, so that was a bit awkward. 

Speaking of awkward, after another couple of hours of shopping (and my third crepe), we went to a different cafe that my travelling companion was keen on - 'Queen Dolce'.  It's actually a butler cafe. As in, the girls cross dress as butlers, and talk in masculine Japanese.  Very gothic, red and black interior design, specialised in cocktails.  Hard to tell who the target audience was - there were quite a few girls, but also some guys, and just to complete the circle, one cross-dressing guy in a straw hat. 

It was pretty interesting experience, the 'butlers' were quite chatty, though they spoke too fast for me to really keep up, and was awkward mostly because it was crowded and we had to share a table.  We didn't stay very long, and instead headed out to enjoy some arcades.  I found a Tetris machine, and left behind a nice record at the top of the chart.  I didn't have enough time to stay and try for an all-time record though.  :(  Only made it halfway.

Then we found a cosplay event!  :O A COSPLAY EVENT, GUYS!  And it's so true, Japanese cosplay makes us look so lame, there were so many eye-popping costumes, and the detail!  And there I was without my camera!  T__T  Except you required some sort of green badge or permit to take photos, apparently, so maybe it was a good thing I didn't have my camera.  There was a whole heap of Bleach cosplayers (a full set of Arrancar!), K-ON, Haruhi Suzumiya, Tales, and whole bunch of really beautiful ones which I didn't recognise.  It was kind of brain exploding, there was so many fantastic cosplays per square metre.  I could have just hung around watching for hours, but alas, we did have an event to get to in the evening.  We made one last stop in Mandarake (a treasure trove, though a badly organised one), before heading to Ikebukuro again for Press Start 2009.

For those that don't know, Press Start is a games concert held annually in Japan, sponsored by Famitsu magazine.  In keeping with the theme of the trip, it was fantastic, even though our seats were in the very last row.  Luckily, it was the sort of venue where there were no bad seats (no right angles, high ceiling, good acoustics!).  The set list went something like this:

Persona 4 suite (Velvet Room Theme, Reach Out to the Truth, Battle Theme) - I nearly cried hearing this performed live with a full orchestra.  Particularly the Velvet Room - the singer hit every note pitch-perfect, after this Shoji Meguro needs to release an orchestrated album.  I spent every second drinking in each note, heavy with the knowledge I could only hear it once.  ;___;  They interviewed Shoji Meguro himself afterwards, and he was excited enough that just maybe it could happen!  (On a side note, the guest list was something incredible.  Shoji Meguro, Masao Sakurai, Koji Kondo, Nobuo Uematsu - and those were just the ones I recognised!)

Super Mario Medley - these are ubiquitous to game concerts.  Excellent, of course, but I will not waste words on a staple.

Kamaitachi no Yoru - obscure old Japanese game, never heard of it before but lovely music.

Suikoden suite - particularly brilliant, an adaptation of the early NES/SNES game music, now I have to try and track down an orchestrated album, dammit.

Famicon Medley - this one was interesting, in that they only played very short snippets of music from various popular famicon series, from Zelda to Dr Mario to Sonic, and the idea was that the audience was supposed to guess and start clapping along once they figured it out.  Except I kind of wanted them to play the full versions of all the themes!

Portal, Still Alive - sort of weird hearing this one in Japanese, even if they did a fantastic job of converting it.  What on earth would GLaDoS sound like in Japanese?  I guess now I know.

Intermission, then...

Okami - really neat, especially since they brought out a pan flute player and a guy who played the koto like a rockstar.

Ace Combat Zero - I'd heard this game has fantastic music, but hadn't heard any before now, and find myself suddenly desiring to track down the soundtrack even though I have zero desire to play the game itself.  This is also included in Eminence's Night in Fantasia 2009 setlist, so that's something to look forward to.

Rhythm Heaven - As befitting a piece taken from a rhythm game, they actually made this one interactive.  They used the ninja game, and had some sticks and tamborines and whatnot.  Nobuo Uematsu and another one of the guest composers, I think it might have been Sakurai, came out, selected some people from the audience, and took turns playing white ninja and black ninja.  Uematsu is a surprisingly funny guy!  He did a little dance for each move, and then abandoned the sticks altgoether and used his voice, to the horror of the volunteer.  XD  For the third round, they had the audience clap.  A surprisingly interactive concert overall, now I think about it.

Fantasion - another old obscure Japanese game, this one was kind of average, not sure why they chose it.

Tales of Destiny - Tales Of games generally have pretty good music, if a little generic.  Compared to the masterpieces of the first half, I was a little underwhelmed by this one. 


FINAL FANTASY X!  I nearly cried.  ;___;  Normally when they perform FF music live, they go FFVII, VI, or one of the earlier games, and very occasionally the Sending theme from FFX.  BUT THE OPENING THEME!  It was beautiful.  And I felt vindicated in my prediction that they had to play some Final Fantasy music, since they had Uematsu as a guest, and not playing FF music when he was there would just be rude.

Then, for an extra encore, A KIRBY MEDLEY OMG ALSKFJDSLKFJ.  BRILLIANT.  It stayed in my head for days.  I am sort of sad that it's finally disappeared from my brain!

Floated away from the concert on a high not quite as cloud nine as Tenimyu, but somewhere in the upper atmosphere none-the-less.  Back at the hotel, watched some TV, and saw a weird program called 'The Post-Man'.  People write to show asking them to find old acquaintances they've lost contact with and want to find again - usually for some heart-warming reason like wanting to thank them for something they'd done for them in the past, or to give them some good news.  This sometimes takes them all over the world!  Has anyone else heard of this before?  It was actually a pretty neat show in all, and I wouldn't mind watching that sort of thing here, except I doubt we'd manage to attach the same sort of epic music for relatively mundane matters the way the Japanese do so shamelessly.  Am sort of tempted to find and download more of it.


Even though I'd been to Ikebukuro twice before already, Monday was officially 'Ikebukuro Day'.  Unfortunately, we got there way too early, and nothing was open yet (you can forget anything in Tokyo being open before 10, sometimes 11).  Fortunately, Tokyu Hands bucked this trend, so we spent a while in there.  It's kind of a department store, except it carries everything except food and clothes.  We found novelty toilet paper!  Including one which the author of 'The Ring' had written a novel on, called 'Drop'.  I wound up buying that as well as the one with 100000 yen notes printed on it.

Things finally started opening, so, in keeping with our 'let's go into every weird cafe we find' directive, we went to a CAT CAFE.

Yes indeed.  A cafe, of cats.  Specifically, Cat Cafe Nekorobi.

You pay a cover charge, and you get unlimited drinks from the machine, and can then play with the cats, pet them, or just watch - whatever you want.  The cats themselves are the most pampered creatures in existence, and do pretty much whatever they want, and this includes ignoring you.  There was a kid there who had serious cat toy technique, though, and managed to rouse them from their disinterest.  We arrived there right on feeding time:

It was maybe one of the most overwhelming cute experiences of my life.  I could see this being a huge hit in any capital city where you get a lot of people unable to own pets.

After the cat cafe, we went to go see the new Evangelion movie, 'You can (not) advance'.  (Skip the following paragraph if you want to avoid spoilers).  It was spectacular on the big screen, except they've completely thrown away canon on these remakes, but can you even say that when the original people are remaking them?  In any case, they skipped a bunch of angels, introduced a whole new character, Kaworu turns up really early, and Asuka and Toji's roles in particular have been completely messed up!  Not necessarily in a bad way, but it mostly just made me want to watch the original series again.  I'm liking what Shiro Sagisu has been doing with his music lately, though.

One hilarious note was that apparently now even Gainax is thinking of fangirls, with an unexpected Kaji/Shinji moment.  As Kaji said, 'Eye service'.  XD

After the movie, the true highlight - Otome Road.  K-Books was first!  I found the first Eyeshield21 OST for only 420yen.  So cheap!  That's like $5! 

After scouring K-Books for bargains, it was on to Animate headquarters.  And they were having a Gintama event on the top floor! 

I swear, I tripped over anime exhibits ever time I turned around.  So awesome.  You weren't allowed photos of most of the exhibit (consisting largely of original animation stills and artwork), but they had a cool collection of top-of-the-line cosplay!

A great deal of money was spent in Animate.  Picked up Natsume Yuujinchou doujinshi!  And a heap of soundtracks and character goods.  Animate is such a dangerous place for my wallet.

After a good two hours scouring Animate, we headed out to find this cosplay speciality store.  Sorry for the blurry photo - but Code Geass costumes!  Incredible Code Geass costumes.  I was so close to buying a Zero costume.  ;___;

We were sort of tired by that point, so headed back to the hotel a little earlier.  And lo and behold, the Yamanote line we caught back, was covered with Pokemon.

A Pokemon train. The entire outside plastered with Pokemon images.  The entire inside plastered with nothing but Pokemon ads.  Even the screen above the door that played advertisements only played Pokemon trailers.  Nintendo owned this train.  And the kids LOVED it.  Every kid under eight who saw it practically exploded with delight.  The platform was filled with cries of 'Pokemon' and 'Pikachu'!

No wonder it continues to sell millions every year.

One last note for the day - back at the hotel, I drank Final Fantasy Dissidia potion!  The can is so beautiful.

Surprisingly tasty!  Wasn't sure after the first few sips, but by the end of the can I wanted more.  Maybe there are secret ingredients.  Either way, my HP and MP were restored.  Tragically, I had already paid for the Inn.

This post has become kind of huge, so that's it for now.  I'll post the rest of the photos and stories tomorrow maybe.



( 28 comments — Leave a comment )
Aug. 9th, 2009 04:35 pm (UTC)
I am so jealous I could cry, aksdfhsjkd. *__*

Totally looking forward to Summer Wars (perhaps someone will rip it and upload it when it's out in DVD?) since I absolutely ADORED Girl Who Leapt Through Time (and also I have to ask this, but do you know who designed the characters of Summer Wars? Because ugh, the Evangelion-ish designs from GWLTT, THEY MADE ME SO HAPPY. *_*)

ALSO ALSO PERSONA 4 SUITE WHAT YOU LUCKY BITCH. aaaah Shoji Meguro music played by an orchestra! He really has to release an orchestrated album, I would buy it without a doubt. *___*

Also the Cat Café sounds amazing, ahaha, and ahahaha I immediately thought of TWEWY when I read the name XD

Also the Gintama event, aksdfhsd, and the Zero cosplay (you should have bought it! So cool! *__*) and the Dissidia potion! also fff the worst thing about Inns is that they get more and more expensive as the story advances :/

Aug. 10th, 2009 10:22 am (UTC)
Inevitably it will be on the internet long before the theatres. ^__^ And you have an excellent eye! Indeed, the character designer is Yoshiyuki Sadamoto of Evangelion fame.


Yes, the economics of inns in games baffles me. Especially towards the end of FFIV, when I discovered buying cottages and resting up at the save points was actually cheaper than using the inn next door. -___-
Aug. 9th, 2009 05:22 pm (UTC)
How is it that I'm there for a full two months, and you're there for (how long?) and have so much more fun than I did? T_T

a;lsdkjnvx;a;slkjdgh;aksdf that concert. OMG. I would have loved to go!!! D8 And the butler-esque cafes. Curse my school's restraints on stuff like that! -shakes fist towards uni-

The last Sunday I had all to myself I was planning to go to Akihabara and Harajuku to look at cosplayers but it was horribly rainy. ;_; I feel really cheated.
Aug. 10th, 2009 10:24 am (UTC)
EFFICIENCY! :D Although your experience was maybe more enriching, as you did a lot more cultural things and education, whereas I focused largely on desserts and otakudom. :DDDDD
Aug. 9th, 2009 05:52 pm (UTC)
Summer Wars looks awesome. I love Toki wo Kakeru Shoujo so I'll keep an eye out for this new one =3 And the final fantasy drinks look cool~

Btw, did you go to the Ghibli Museum? They've screenings of shorter films there =3
Aug. 10th, 2009 10:25 am (UTC)
Nah, I keep skipping the Ghibli Museum because there are people who wish to go there on the inevitable return trips to Japan, and I'd rather wait and go with them. :) Plus, my travelling companion had already been.

Yes, Summer Wars is awesome! Look forward to it!
Aug. 9th, 2009 06:13 pm (UTC)

Seriously, my little cousins have just got into Pokemon and I'm feeling old, so that makes me feel a lot better.
Aug. 10th, 2009 10:26 am (UTC)
They had a Pokemon centre in Shin-Okubo I think it was! If you ever go, you should check that out! :D

But yes, darn these kids, stealing Pokemon from us.
(Deleted comment)
Aug. 10th, 2009 10:30 am (UTC)
All the Natsume doujinshi I could find. Which amounted only two books, both Natori/Natsume. XD Art was nice, but they weren't anything super-special otherwise. I may scan them at some point anyway, simply because for the lack of Natsume Yuujinchou doujin floating around the net.
Aug. 9th, 2009 07:58 pm (UTC)
Aug. 9th, 2009 10:54 pm (UTC)


((of all the things to be jealous of, jeez..)
Aug. 10th, 2009 10:32 am (UTC)
Ahaha, I can understand, I've been jealous of it a long time in the past. ^__^ I WISH I COULD HAVE SHIPPED BACK A HEAP OF IT.

Apparently the earlier versions of the potion (from FFXII period) were not so tasty, so perhaps your patience will be rewarded in the end? :D
Aug. 10th, 2009 03:30 am (UTC)
I am going to totally harass you for directions of places to visit and how to get there for when I go next yr XDDDDDDD
Aug. 10th, 2009 10:33 am (UTC)
By all means! It will be much more efficient than the way I did it first time round, by just wandering until I found something interesting. :P Japan also has this irritating habit of hiding all of the coolest places up/down several flights of stairs, thus making everything harder to find.
Aug. 10th, 2009 09:23 am (UTC)

Oh and agreeing with others here, but am really looking forward to the release of Summer Wars now. I didn't even know it existed, but hey, the same people as The Girl Who Leapt Through Time, I'm THERE! >:D

And you seeing cosplayers! You didn't need to find a con after all! Oh, you lucky girl~ ♥

*__* Nobuo Uematsu! aksjdhakjda, he a magician. Up there with Miyazaki. :3
Aug. 10th, 2009 10:35 am (UTC)
DON'T WORRY! I DIDN'T GO. Miyazaki clock doesn't count, right? :D

Well, Summer Wars only just came out, I imagine it won't make waves on the internet until the DVD is released and someone rips it. :) But yes, excellent movie! I want to see it again~!

sldjfsljfd the COSPLAYERS, they were so amazing. *___* I only wish I could have brought back a heap of photos for you guys!
Aug. 11th, 2009 07:33 am (UTC)
ARGH my stupid comp won't load the photos!! im so desperate to see them gaahhhh agaldghlhgasghsfjkjk

i swear i start crying as i read these posts; you make me so ridiculously jealous. especially since even if i WAS there i wouldn't be able to see the cat cafe since im allergic lol but kyaaaa COSPLAYERS i want to be one of them!!

o btw, my dotmoon nominations were finally put up, so you can go second Genius is a Curse if you want. also, since i now know that you read Death Note fics, do you happen to know the author bahari? cus i really liked bahari's works and suddenly they all disappeared and the his/her profile on ff.net was wiped and i can't figure out what happened...
Aug. 11th, 2009 12:17 pm (UTC)
Ha ha, seconded LIKE A FOX.

I do read Death Note fics, but very sporadically, so I'm not familiar with bahari, sorry. Sounds like a case of somebody losing interest in fanfiction and trying to erase all traces of it from the net? If they were popular, though, someone probably has the stories somewhere...
Aug. 12th, 2009 12:55 am (UTC)
loool i think im missing a reference there. like a fox? i see ur slick fox icon but is there another origin for that phrase? haha

yea ill keep looking...on a brighter note, i was able to see ur blog photos. night gundam XD XD XD XD
Aug. 12th, 2009 03:48 am (UTC)
I think the phrase originally came from an old TV show, 'Crazy Like a Fox', about a zany detective named Harry Fox who used to get into all sorts of trouble and drag his straight-laced son around. Or maybe the show stole it from something else! I'm not so sure of the history anymore.
Aug. 11th, 2009 01:15 pm (UTC)
Japan is truly another world, sometimes reading descriptions make it feel almost too cool to be true.

I already got that feeling when I learned about cafés with guys that are paactically escorts, and now you bring me evidence of crossdressing cafés where even girls go in? XD
I can't help but think I might feel so awed by it because no matter what we like think, our country is still nation of prudes XD

And I got off a tangent, sorry!
I can't thank you enough for making those posts, I'm living the japanese excperience vicariously through you! XDDD

And how sad it is that when I saw "Ueno" my first thought was "OMG did you see the Sakurazuka Sakura?!?!? SEISHIROOOO!" =_=
Aug. 11th, 2009 01:23 pm (UTC)

It is magical! It's like Disneyland for adults! I'm glad if I've been able to bring even a little slice of it back to you. ^__^
Aug. 11th, 2009 01:39 pm (UTC)

Ueno in bloom is safe, you can pretend it's indeed all fiction!
Imagine seeing it in winter and indeed finding one cherry in blook XD
Better to see it in bloom and remain with th doubt XDDD

OMG, I just read your 3th entry too, there's too much epic packed in there too!
Holy sheep that skyscraper! O.O
And the parfraits!
And the puppies!!

Aug. 11th, 2009 01:57 pm (UTC)

(Wait, puppies?)
Aug. 11th, 2009 02:11 pm (UTC)
LOL, I meant kittens! XD
*feels stupid*
Aug. 11th, 2009 02:19 pm (UTC)
XD A puppy cafe would be pretty awesome too, though! I wonder if such a thing exists, yet...
Sep. 13th, 2009 08:51 pm (UTC)
*gasp* Video game music! I want to see a live performance, too. ;___;

Cat cafe. Too awesome.

You managed to do quite a bit in just a week! Excellent planning or a stroke of luck to be in town during these events? XP
Sep. 14th, 2009 09:18 am (UTC)
A little from column A, a little from column B... :P

It helped that I didn't spend nearly as much time hopelessly lost this time.
( 28 comments — Leave a comment )

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